Jasmine is waking

I could start this week’s piece with a rant about inept solicitors but I won’t. Let’s try to be positive.

There was the lovely news about the person in the Netherlands who has become the first legal non-binary person. They were born with an intersex condition and has spent time living as male and female but now has settled for a non-gendered life.  It was a struggle but the Dutch government finally accepted it. Perhaps it opens the way for other intersex people to adopt a similar life-style. However, I don’t think it offers too much hope for those like me who are not intersex but identify as gender-fluid or gender-variant and want to reject labelling as male or female.

Then there was the great day we had at the Hay Literary Festival last week. We always have a good time at Hay but this was different as I was contributing to a workshop on Gender, Sexuality and Identity organised by the young people’s mental health charity, Strong Young Minds. In fact I was asked to introduce the topic and guide the audience into the discussion groups. We had a good and varied audience who took part enthusiastically and the group facilitators and notetakers did a fantastic job. We hope the outcomes are greater awareness, a network for LGBTQ+ youth and further opportunities to spread the message viz. BU (i.e. be yourself).

Of course there was another highlight to the day – a peer inside the Green Room at Hay where all the speakers relax. Actually a bit more than a “peer”. We were welcomed in, given a glass of wine and had a sit down to eat our packed lunch.  Oh, and the loos were pretty smart too.

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This week we reach the concluding part of my SF story, Benefactors. Well, it’s the last part so far. When you get to the end you will see that it’s not really the end of the story. I have been thinking about a millennia spanning tale taking humans out to perhaps meet the Benefactors but it has rather ground to a halt at the moment. Meanwhile, I have been thinking about Jasmine Frame’s return.  Yes, she will be back in a new transgender-themed crime story next week – I just have to write it. . .

Benefactors: Part 9

The change in engine note after the helicopter touched down was what woke Jock. Moments later the door opened revealing another helmeted military figure standing on a small landing field of old and cracked concrete. Jock undid his harness, stretched his arms and legs and stepped out into a cloudy evening that was considerably colder than the previous stop. Not having had his personal possessions returned to him Jock had no idea how long the journey had lasted. He looked around, seeing that they were in a valley between moderately high and rugged mountains. Scotland, Jock decided.
There was a row of single storey huts on one side of the landing field. From the distance, they looked practically derelict relicts of the Cold War or even earlier. A figure was striding towards him from the buildings. Jock thought the person was familiar. He began to walk to meet her. A few steps confirmed his hopes.
‘Professor Patel,’ Jock called, his words drowned by the roar of the helicopter taking off behind him. He turned to see it rise and turn and head off down the valley.
‘Jock!’ Helen called and ran towards him. They met and embraced in an awkward but emotional hug. ‘Thank goodness you’re here,’ Helen said when they parted.
‘I don’t know where “here” is, Professor. What’s going on?’
‘It’s Helen. We don’t need titles here and I think we’re going to be together for some time. I don’t know where “here” is either and it hasn’t got a name but it’s where we’re going to study the data in the tree genome.’
Jock stopped walking, shivered and shook his head. ‘I don’t get it. They killed my guide, destroyed the last tree, and shut me away. I thought the next stop was an unmarked grave. Now you say they want to know what the tree’s all about.’
Helen nodded. ‘I’ll explain all I can, but let’s get you inside. It’s a colder autumn here wherever we are.’ They entered the nearest building. It had paint peeling from the concrete walls and the vinyl covering on the floor was lifting in places.
‘What is this place?’ Jock said.
‘I think it was a research station from the 60s. Biological warfare I expect. It’s been mothballed for half a century but that doesn’t mean it’s been looked after. I think the government thinks it’s remote enough to keep our work secret.’
‘So we’re working for the British government,’ Jock shrugged.
‘I think so.’ Helen explained how she and Darmaan had been arrested or kidnapped depending on your point of view and how she had been facing a memory wipe given some sort of legitimacy by government anti-radicalisation laws. ‘But I convinced them that they needed to take the tree data seriously.’
‘How did you do that? They seemed to be paranoid about any of it getting out.’
‘They are but they’re more scared of others using the data first. I suggested that there may be more examples of hidden messages in genomes waiting to be found in other parts of the world.’
Jock shook his head. ‘I don’t think so. The Rift Valley was where modern humans evolved. There’s the pinch point where they almost didn’t make it. You know we’re all descended from one female. Well, perhaps there were other women in that surviving group but their descendants died out. Something happened to improve the odds of survival for that bunch of humans a quarter of a million years ago. I think it was the Tree. We were given one chance.’
‘Shh,’ Helen held a finger to her lips. ‘Keep that to yourself I don’t think they’ve had time to install surveillance yet. Let them think that we’re in a race to decode the data.’
‘Maybe we are. The Chinese mining operation that destroyed the grove could be a cover. Perhaps they took samples too.’
‘So we’ve got our work cut out.’
‘But there aren’t any trees. They’re all gone.’ Jock shook his head sadly.
Helen stopped at a steel door. She pushed on the handle. The door swung opened as if recently greased. They stepped into a small laboratory. There was plastic sheeting draped from the ceiling and covering the windows. It felt warmer than in the corridor. A bench in the centre of the room was covered with trays of small glass jars.
Jock let out a gasp of glee. He leapt forward bending to peer at the bottles. ‘They’re . . .’
‘Tissue cultures,’ Helen said leaning to look inside a bottle at the short pale shoot and the tiny leaves that were just beginning to open.
‘How. . .?’ Jock asked almost speechless as he examined jar after jar.
‘Your employers. Your un-named drug company. They had started the cultures to obtain the neuroactive drug you discovered. All their work has been transferred here along with their staff. I think the government has done a deal with the company to keep it secret.’
Jock straightened up. ‘The God-tree survives.’
Helen took Jock’s hand and tugged him back to the corridor. ‘Yes, but that’s not what we’re here for. Come on.’
They walked a little further until Helen pushed open another door. Jock was dazzled by the colours and flickering illumination. The room was filled with holographic displays hanging in the air, moving, changing, flicking off, new ones appearing. In the centre of the room, almost hidden by the maze of pictures and text, was a figure.
‘Darmaan. Jock Fraser’s here,’ Helen called. The displays disappeared revealing another drab, decaying room with a single pendant light hanging over Darmaan Adams. Darmaan stepped towards them arm extended.
‘Jock! At last. Helen’s said so much about you.’ Darmaan grabbed Jock’s hand and pumped it vigorously. Jock always considered himself an action man, a fearless explorer always prepared for the unexpected but the way today had turned out was too much for even him. He collapsed onto an old wooden stool and stared at Helen and Darmaan with his mouth open.
‘I’ll explain,’ Helen said. ‘The government guy who was organising my memory wipe believed my story of what the Tree meant. I have to hand it to them. Once they make up their mind to act things happen. I was left alone in a comfy cell for less than two days. Then they came for me and brought me here. That was yesterday evening. Darmaan arrived this morning long with the drug company guys and gals. That’s it for now except for a company of soldiers who are guarding the perimeter. I’m not sure if they are keeping snoopers out or us in.’
‘Probably both,’ Jock said. ‘Where are the tissue team now?’
‘Having some supper in the common room,’ Darmaan said.
Helen nodded. ‘We were going to join them until I heard the helicopter.’
‘And I was too engrossed here to stop,’ Darmaan added.
Jock looked around the bare and decrepit laboratory. ‘But you said this place was out of action for fifty years.’
‘It was,’ Helen nodded vigorously, ‘It’s a mess but the soldiers cleaned up some of the rooms, rigged up a power feed and brought in a water supply. As I said, they did a lot in two days. For now, we’re going to be living rough. You’re used to that aren’t you, Jock?’ Jock nodded, ‘’But we have the Tree and the data Darmaan extracted from the genome. We can make a start on understanding it.’
‘Working for the government.’ Jock said.
‘Yes, but we’re still alive with our minds intact and we have an amazing task in front of us.’
Jock didn’t look as grateful as Helen expected. ‘The drug in the Tree enabled the people to work together for the good of the race. It gave them the edge over their competitors and here we are today. We don’t know who planted the trees but what did they expect to happen when their protégés became successful enough to decode the genome.’
Darmaan said, ‘That’s what we’re going to find out.’

……………………..The End (for now)

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Jasmine is worrying

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This is what a transgender/gender-fluid person may look like.

It is disappointing (probably an understatement) when a group of people trying to end discrimination break into factions which fight each other. It’s happened in the fight for female equality where certain radical feminists now seem to devote their time to accusing transwomen of not being women and of retaining their “male privileges”.  That dispute has become very bitter with trans activists attempting to prevent well known feminists have a stage to speak their anti-trans thoughts.

Now there is a split in the transgender/non-binary world caused by possible changes to the Gender Recognition Act. A group of transwomen (it looks like all women, I can’t see any men named) wrote to the Guardian last week, and perhaps other papers, and at  least one of the named has spoken out in public.  They are protesting at proposals to make it easier to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, mainly by demedicalising transition, if someone declares that they will live for the rest of their lives in the gender they identify with. This is already being done in a number of countries.  It will of course mean that there will be transmen and women who have not undergone any surgery and possibly not even taking hormones. The protesters say that this change will “blur the distinction” between themselves i.e. those who have gone through gender confirmation surgery (they have vaginas), and others who have not.  Actually at the moment there is no distinction because the current act only asks for an intention to go through with surgery when the time is right. For many transpeople the time is never right for health or other reasons.

These transwomen are setting themselves apart from other transgender and non-binary people. They want to be considered as “real” women and so wish to cut themselves off from other trans/non-binary people who they see as “damaging our credibility”. They are asking the politicians who will have to vote on changes to the act to “show courage”, presumably to resist the overwhelming numbers of transgender/non-binary people who are lobbying for the right to be women (or men). No, we’re not.

Since the GRA become law in 2004 under 10,000 people have obtained certificates while the total number of transgender people in the UK is a half to three-quarters of a million.  The GRA is obviously not working.  Also the Equality Act of 2010 only recognises those with a GRC (or applying for one) as a protected minority with all sorts of safeguards against hate-crime etc. Not all of us want to transition; there are many non-binary/gender-fluid people who just want the freedom (and protection) to be themselves. Unfortunately this group of transwomen want to retain stereotypical gender roles so that they can blend in as women. But they will never be accepted by the “women have babies” faction.

It is all very disappointing and worrying.  The more infighting there is, the more prejudice is allowed to bubble to the surface so that even comedians like Peter Kay (Carshare Unscripted) can use the beating up of a trans person as grist for a joke.

…………………………..

Now for something completely different, as they used to say. Here’s the next episode of Benefactors. Here you will easily detect two influences on the story (if you know your 1960s SF) which made me ultimately decide that it wasn’t original enough. What do you think?

Benefactors: Part 5

Chapter 5

Helen met Darmaan by the lake that formed the centrepiece of the campus. It was a hot summer day and Helen was sweating. She wondered how her father’s family survived the heat of summer on the Indian sub-continent.
‘They’ve deleted the lot,’ Helen said, ‘and threatened me with a memory wipe if I make a fuss. I’m not risking that. Who knows what else I might lose if they start zapping my brain.’
Darmaan held her shoulders trying to calm her. ‘It won’t come to that.’
‘Won’t it? You’ve seen what was in that genome. They know how excited people will get if people learn what’s in the code.’
‘And we’ve got to make sure that that is just what happens,’ Darmaan said staring into her face.
‘I’m scared Darmaan. We’ve got lawyers threatening us and the government hacking our comslink.’
‘Which only shows how important that data is. Think about it Helen. You said that the genome is about two-hundred-thousand years old and only found in one spot in the Rift Valley where it’s been tended for generations by a local tribe. Yet it contains ideas and data beyond my knowledge and I suspect beyond any scientist on Earth today.’
‘You’ve found out more?’
‘Yes. I did a comparison search with the equations in the genome and what’s on the Net. I got some very strange matches with theories on the edge of quantum and cosmological physics. I saw hints of ideas that I can only describe as science fiction. And there’s that whole section of DNA that isn’t but is something similar. I think it is an organism but one like nothing that exists on Earth now or ever.’
‘But how. . .?’ Helen was scared of the answer as she knew it would tear her sense of being a rational scientist apart.
‘Aliens,’ Darmaan said in a whisper, ‘It’s got to be. They came here millennia ago and left a gift for us.’
‘But modern humans were just evolving then.’
‘Yes, right where those trees got planted. My parents came from Somalia when they were children. They thought of themselves as coming from an ancient people but the Rift Valley is where humans became human. You know what Fraser told you about those leaves. They make people more cooperative. Wouldn’t that have been a useful trick for those primitive people.’
Helen considered, ‘It’s too incredible.’
‘Is it?’
‘Whatever. It’s too important to let this Company whoever they are and the government turn it into a secret. We’ve got to do something.’ Then Helen remembered, ‘But it’s all gone, your copy too.’
Darmaan smiled and leaned to whisper into her ear. ‘Not quite. They wiped my Net files. They thought people like you and me would only keep data uploaded via our net storage.’
‘I do.’
‘Well, it’s not only old guys like Fraser who keep personal memory backups.’
Helen’s eyes widened. ‘You’ve got a button?’
Darmaan grinned and tapped his pocket, ‘A few here and there. It’s not all lost.’
Helen grabbed his arm and started to walk around the lake. ‘They could be watching us now. What are we going to do, Darmaan?’
‘We’ve got to get this out to some physicists, chemists and synthetic biologists who would know what it means. You move in the upper reaches of science, Helen. Surely you know a few Nobel Prize winners.’
‘Hmm. I’m not sure they’re the best – but their postdocs may be. The more we can spread it the more protection we’ll get.’
‘You get me the list. I’ll get copying.’
‘How? As soon as you logon the hackers will be on to you.’
Darmaan grinned again. ‘I’ve been waiting for something like this to happen for ages. I’ve got a scroll which I disconnected from the net and a few more buttons. I can make copies and get them couriered to the people you name.’
‘Hmm, well, let’s split and meet first thing in the morning.’

Helen tried to act naturally on her journey home but in actual fact she was anxiously looking for people watching and tailing her. It was a long time since she had felt that she stood out as a woman with an Asian appearance but now she was worried that everyone was looking at her. She didn’t pick out anyone though. She got home, made some supper, tried to read a book. Finally, she unrolled her scroll and put in a call to Jock Fraser. The screen announced that it was “searching” for some time until a fuzzy picture appeared with Jock’s weather beaten face in the centre. There was darkness behind him and he appeared to be out in the open.
‘Hello, Professor,’ Jock’s voice was somewhat distorted.
‘Where are you, Jock? It’s a very poor signal.’
‘I’m in the Rift Valley. The nearest Stratonet balloon is probably a long way from here. But I can hear and see you.’
‘You went back.’
‘Yes. I wanted to see the trees again. I hoped the People would let me take more samples. But . . .’ His voice broke up and Helen felt that it wasn’t due to interference or a weak signal.
‘What’s happened, Jock.’
‘The People have been killed and the trees destroyed.’
Helen sucked in her breath, ‘All of them?’
‘Nearly. There may be one tree left.’
‘What happened?’
‘The government did a deal with the Chinese mining companies. There are rare earth metals in these hills. They didn’t realise the value of the Trees.’
‘Are you sure. I think your Company and our government have. They’ve confiscated your data and wiped my files.’
‘What? Did you find anything in the genome?’
‘Yes, Jock. It’s remarkable, there’s . . .’
‘Don’t tell me. We mustn’t talk like this. They’ll be listening.’ The connection broke.

The following morning, well before her usual time for starting work, Helen was strolling through the park next to the university campus. It was definitely not her normal routine and she felt exhausted. Sleep had not come for thinking about what Jock had said and the warnings from the company lawyer and anti-terrorism officer.
A figure jogged towards her. It was Darmaan. He stopped when he reached her barely showing a sweat.
‘This isn’t where I usually train,’ he said, ‘Running is in my genes.’ He grinned.
‘I’ve got the addresses of some people who may help us,’ Helen said, ‘Have you made the copies of the decoded genome.’
‘I left them hidden away in my flat,’ Darmaan said, ‘I didn’t want to carry them.’
Helen held out a folded sheet of paper. ‘Here you are, then.’
‘I’ll take that thank you.’
Helen turned to see the tall anti-terrorist operative. There were two other men beside him wearing helmets that covered their faces. They carried weapons. Darmaan grabbed the paper from Helen’s hand, turned and ran. One of the helmeted men raised his arm and aimed the gun. It fired with a soft “pfft” and Darmaan fell, convulsing.
Helen gasped. ‘You haven’t . . .’
‘Just a knockout pellet,’ the man said, ‘You’ll get the same if you resist arrest.’
‘Arrest?’
‘For conspiracy to assist a person with terrorist associations.’
Helen felt an unusual anger, ‘If you are referring to Jock Fraser again, he’s not a terrorist. He’s told me what’s happened to the people who tended the trees. They were just defending their homes. They didn’t hurt anyone.’
‘I do not know what you are referring to, Professor. I am commanded to arrest you and Dr Adams. Please come with me.’ He took Helen’s arm and marched her towards the park exit. His two subordinates pocketed their weapons, picked up Darmaan and followed. A van with dark windows waited at the gates.

………………………….to be continued.

 

Jasmine: a collection

Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection – the new e-book containing four Jasmine Frame stories is now available on Kindle.  More below.

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The scary-index has ratchetted up another notch or three, thanks the to the Russians bumping off one of their many traitors and paying no heed to the risk of contaminating the population of Salisbury with their nerve gas. The story reads like a Le Carre novel without the subtlety, but the consequences are worrying. It’s further proof of Putin’s fear of the world and need to be popular amongst his people, not that he needs their approval to win his forthcoming election. It’s also proof of a growing instability in the world with egotistical madmen (however you want to define mad) in power in the three (perhaps more) largest and most powerful countries of the world.

Any response to Russia will probably be ineffectual but dangerous. One can but hope that sense still holds some sway in the those endless corridors in which power is supposed to reside and that no-one gets trigger-happy.  For all of my life we have feared a nuclear war which would probably have been over pretty quick with just the few left to suffer the aftermath. But is that the worst scenario? Surely the type of war on civilians we have seen in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere is worse.

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Tea in Debenhams

I am thankful that in my lifetime I have never been asked to put my own life on the line in wartime as our parents’ generation were. I don’t know how I would react. I feel cowardly in the face of physical violence with or without weapons (unless it’s brandishing a foil in a fencing match – but that’s friendly competition). I want peace but I can see that sometimes pacifism is not a viable option.  I have just spent a short while studying the double Nobel Prize winning chemist, Fred Sanger who was a Quaker and conscientious objector in WW2. While I respect Sanger’s ideals, I don’t think that, in circumstances like those of 1939-40, refusing to defend one’s home is justified. A day away from being officially a Senior Citizen, or OAP if you like, I hope I will never have to face that dilemma but unfortunately I can see growing numbers of people around the world will, as a result of the increasing instability, shortage of resources and climate change.

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trained by murder ver3Yes, it’s hereTrained By Murder is now available as a Kindle e-book priced at £2.15 (and the equivalent in other currencies.).

Trained by Murder is a set of four stories that fit into a short period, between Murder in Doubt and Painted Ladies, when James joined the Police service, and married Angela. While outwardly living his life as James he spends much of his off-duty time as Jasmine and is struggling to understand where his gender identity lies. The four stories average 13,000 words in length.

In Pushed to Murder, while working as a barman, a jog along the Rover Kennet in Reading brings James some disturbing news and a problem.

Death on a Honeymoon tells the story of James’ and Angela’s not so idyllic nuptial break on Ibiza where he meets a particular Spanish detective.

Vengeance is Murder finds Jasmine enjoying a weekend break in London with Angela that provides a dilemma that will stay with her for the rest of her life.

Death in Self-defence sees James on response duty in Abingdon, trying to get justice while hiding her double identity.

A pdf version of Trained By Murder is available from me, price £2.  Order it by sending an email here.

A paperback version will be available from Amazon soon.

The next full length novel, Molly’s Boudoir is on its way.

And finally, here is the next episode of Pose, another Painted Ladies prequel

Pose: Part 9

Jasmine took a small torch from her shoulder bag and took a look around. It was little bigger than a domestic garage but had a ramp and inspection pit. There was a work bench at the back with what appeared to be a door to another room behind. Apart from bits of car and cans of oil and other liquids there was nothing else to see. Jasmine moved towards the back of the garage. She pushed the door. It opened onto a narrow storeroom. Jasmine shone the torch around. She gasped. There was a glimpse of red satin. She stepped inside for a better view.
It was Tina in her princess dress sprawled on the floor amongst the cans and cardboard boxes. Jasmine knelt, reaching out a hand to feel a pulse. There wasn’t one but there was a sticky mess at the back of her head.
Jasmine backed out of the cupboard and hurried back through the garage. She stepped outside and pulled the door down. Angela approached her.
‘Did you find anything?’
Jasmine took her arm and dragged her back to the Fiesta. ‘Yes. Tina.’
‘Why didn’t she come. . .’ Angela’s mouth dropped open. ‘She’s dead?’
‘Yes.’ Jasmine unlocked the car door, got in and urged Angela to join her.
‘What are we going to do?’ Angela asked her face pale in the moonlight.
‘I don’t know. If we call the police we’ll have to identify ourselves and explain what we’re doing here.’
‘But you can’t leave Tina in there.’
‘She’s dead, Angela. We can’t do anything for her.’
‘We can. We can see that she gets a proper burial or whatever. What about her wife and daughter? What’s Jed going to do with her?’
Jasmine shook her head. She felt lost. She hadn’t been close to Tina but the shock of finding someone she knew battered to death along with her dilemma of not wanting to be identified seemed to have frozen her mind.
Lights appeared from the lane. An old Land Rover drove passed where they were parked, turned through 180 degrees and backed up to the garage door. A man got out.
‘It must be Jed,’ Angela said.
The man opened the garage doors, went back to his car and reversed inside. The doors closed.
‘What’s he doing?’ Angela asked.
‘Well, it could be he’s doing some car mechanics or perhaps he’s getting rid of Tina’s body.’
‘What should we do?’
‘Wait and see.’

A half an hour of sitting in the dark, cooling car, afraid to speak to each other and mulling over the problem passed. The garage doors opened. The Land Rover drove out and stopped. The driver got out, closed the door, returned to the car and drove off. Jasmine started the Fiesta’s engine and followed at a discreet distance.
‘Can you read his registration number?’ Jasmine asked. ‘If we lose him we need to be able to report what vehicle he’s driving.’
‘No, it’s too dark and I think the number-plate is covered in muck.’
‘Damn. We’ll just have to make sure we don’t lose him.’
For a while they travelled south on the main road out of the town. Before they reached the motorway, the Land Rover turned off onto an industrial estate and then onto a narrow lane. Jasmine slowed, letting the distance between them increase. It would be easy for Jed to see he was being followed if they were too close behind on the country road. The road took some wide curves, but they were usually able to see the rear lights of the Land Rover in the distance.
Then the lights disappeared. Jasmine drove slowly and came to the point where an even narrower side road branched off. There was a large building set back from the road.
‘He must have turned up here,’ Jasmine said spinning the steering wheel. She turned the headlights off and drove tentatively along the lane.
‘There he is,’ Angela cried. The dark angular bulk of the Land River against the almost leafless upward reaching branches of the trees was just visible about a hundred yards ahead. They stopped.
‘Call the police and tell them someone in a Land Rover is acting suspiciously,’ Jasmine said, opening her door.
‘But I don’t know where we are?’ Angela said as she dug her mobile phone from her bag.
‘Take the car and see what that building on the corner was. That should be a landmark.’
‘OK,’ Angela got out and ran around to the driver’s side
‘Oh, and don’t give your name.’
‘No, right.’
Angela reversed slowly back the way they had come, veering from side to side of the narrow, dark road. Jasmine crept forward. She kept to the side of the road almost hidden by the hedges and shrubs that lined the road. Closer to the Land Rover she could see that the tail-gate was open but there was no sign of Jed. She stopped, hearing her breathing and the rustle of movement in the undergrowth at the side of the road.
Jasmine pushed through the bushes and, with her eyes adjusted to the darkness, saw a figure moving through the bracken ahead of her. He was weighed down by a heavy bundle carried over his shoulders. Ahead of him there was a shimmer of light on water, part of the large system of lakes in flooded gravel workings.
Jasmine crouched down and tried to move forward, half crawling, half walking. She knew her tights would be ruined. She moved slowly but Jed, with his burden was making slow progress too. Nevertheless, he didn’t go directly to the bank of the lake. He kept to the narrow strip of land that divided the workings into separate bodies of water.
She was close enough now to hear him panting, using the bracken and small shrubs to keep herself hidden. He moved towards the water and let the body slip from his shoulder to the ground. Jed straightened up and seemed to be regaining his breath.
Jasmine wondered if Angela had made contact with the Police and had been able to give their location. Would they respond or just consider it a minor incident? Fly-tipping perhaps. If she allowed Jed to dump Tina’s body in the water and get away the police wouldn’t know where to look unless Jasmine guided them. But she couldn’t do that. She had to delay Jed somehow.
Jed bent down and began to drag the body towards the water’s edge. Jasmine edged forward. She was only a couple of metres from him now but he was intent on his task.
She screamed and launched herself at him. She hit him like a battering ram, tumbling him. He grunted. Jasmine fell in a heap but was quickly picking herself up. Where was he?
Jed was rising to his feet, looking around, startled by her attack. Jasmine threw herself at him again rugby-tackling his legs. They fell together. Jed kicked out, connecting with one of Jasmine’s false boobs. She rolled away and got to her feet. Jed was getting to his knees. Jasmine aimed the toe of her boot at his head. There was a thud as her kick hit home. Jed collapsed.
Jasmine stood up, breathing hard. She heard sirens. Blue lights were moving along the lane. She couldn’t stop here any longer. The police would find the Land Rover and start searching. She hoped Jed would stay put for long enough. She had to get away. Was the strip of land they were on a peninsular or an isthmus? There was only one way to find out. She moved on, away from the flashing lights, through the rough bracken with water on both sides.
It seemed an age but was probably only a few minutes when some buildings loomed against the sky ahead of her. She stumbled from the undergrowth onto a small parking area occupied by a couple of cars. Then she was on a made-up road again. She staggered along it, trying to jog but feeling bruised and cut by thorns and brambles.
She reached a junction with a slightly wider road. Which way should she go? How was she going to get home? The flat was miles away. She was out in the country. She must look a complete mess. Jasmine started walking, slowly, uncertainly, warily.
Lights came towards her. A car. She stepped to the side into the bushes. Perhaps she hadn’t been seen. The car drew level and stopped. The window wound down.
‘Jas?’
‘Angela?’ Jasmine’s heart beat faster with surprise and joy.
‘Get in, quick.’
Jasmine ran around the Fiesta and got into the passenger seat. Angela drove off.
‘How did you find me?’ Jasmine asked as she buckled herself in.
‘I didn’t.’ Angela stared ahead into the darkness. ‘After I rang the police I had to get away so I drove on along the road. But then I thought, how on earth are you going to get home? So I’ve driven up and down this bit of road a few times, wondering where you might be.’
‘The police. . .?’
‘I kept away from them. I could see their lights coming from the other direction.’
‘We need to get far away now, Ange. They’ll be piling in once they find Jed and Tina.’
‘Will they find them?’
‘There’s a good chance.’ Jasmine described what had happened as they drove along the country road back towards the lights of the town.

……………………………to be continued.

Jasmine worried

WP_20180223_21_21_14_ProI don’t usually follow the Oscars but this year I am interested to see which film wins the non-English language category.  One of the contenders is A Fantastic Woman. I was able to see it last week, before it went on general release in the UK, as part of the Borderlines Film Festival (this covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire and is the largest rural film festival in the country).

The reason for my interest is, of course, that the film is about a transgender character acted by a transwoman. The film is written and directed by Sebastian Lelio.  When planning the story of Marina Vidal he consulted Daniela Vega, a transwoman who is a singer and had done some film work. Lelio soon realised that Vega was the perfect person to play the part of Marina.

A Fantastic Woman is a love story, a tale of loss and an exploration of the treatment of transgender people in Chile. Once Marina appears, the camera rarely leaves her and we get a deep insight into her life and feelings. Unlike many stories concerning trans people, Marina is not searching for her identity, or trying to come to terms with being trans. She isn’t struggling to make a living on the edge of society. Marina is secure in her identity, has a job as a waitress and as a professional singer, and has a loving relationship with an older man – at the start of the film anyway. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do, we discover how society treats people like Marina. I don’t suppose Santiago, Chile is a lot different to many other places. It is chilling the way police, hospital workers, and the family of her lover speak to her with calm platitudes and apologies which cover up a deep prejudice and negation of any rights she might have as a human being. The word “sorry” has rarely sounded so much like a threat. There is a bit of traditional transphobic violence but for the most part Marina has to face rejection and discrimination. Not giving too much away – she comes through it.

Daniela Vega plays the part of Marina superbly. It is surprising and disappointing that though the film is up for an Oscar, Vega isn’t. Vega has said that she doesn’t mind that cis-people have played trans parts in many past films and TV shows (Transamerica and Transparent for two) as acting is acting, but her performance shows why a trans-actor fits the role of Marina far better than a cis-man or cis-woman could. Daniela is a beautiful woman but certain features such as her broad shoulders and strong chin betray her birth gender.  As Marina, she often does not wear a bra and does not use false breasts to enhance her partially developed bust. This means that in a crucial scene she can be taken for a man even while topless. It is hinted, though never categorically stated, that Marina (and Vega herself) has not (yet) had gender-confirmation surgery. Being “pre-op” might make a trans-woman lack confidence, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in Marina’s or Daniela’s case. Daniela is also a superb mezzo-soprano classical and jazz/modern singer.

A Fantastic Woman is a lovely, moving film. Daniela Vega is a true star and beacon for all transgender people, particularly those whose gender identities perhaps lie between the male and female extremes.

And so to Jasmine Frame.  Next week there will be news of the publication of  Trained By Murder, but here is the next episode of Pose, a prequel to Painted Ladies.

 

Pose: Part 7

James squeezed into the IT room. Colin turned his head and glared at him.
‘About time. Where did you get to?’
James recited his excuse. ‘Uh, I thought if I went to where the van had been found I might pick up some information to help us.’
Colin scowled. ‘That’s an investigating officer’s job. Any data they want us to look at will be sent here. No need to go gallivanting off. I’m late going off shift thanks to your wandering.’ He hauled himself out of his seat.’
James apologised and squashed himself against the wall so that Colin could pass him on his way out. Technically DC Colin Green was his senior officer in the CPUEES, not that Colin usually exerted his authority. He sat down in the vacated chair still warm from Colin’s buttocks. He logged himself into the computer and accessed the files accumulating for the case of the murder of Avril Robinson.
Baz paused her key tapping. ‘What’s up Jim?’
‘Er?’ James replied as he found the link to the data on Tina’s van.
‘Why did you dash off like that? Colin’s right, any info will land up here as quick as a pizza delivery.’
James tried to think of a reason that would be convincing. Perhaps the truth, if not the whole truth, would be required.
‘I thought I recognised the description of the van.’
‘Oh, where from?’
‘Someone I know said a friend of theirs had one like it.’
‘Oh.’
James thought that Baz didn’t sound convinced.
‘Was it?’ she asked.
‘What?’ he said trying to look as though he was concentrating on the screen.
‘The friend of your friend’s van?’
‘Um, yes, I think so. Must have got nicked by kids who dumped it and set it on fire.’
‘Perhaps, but Crowley is putting a lot of resources into it. It’s pretty close to where the girl was found and it’s the only clue that’s turned up so far, other than her phone.’
‘Yes, I guess so.’ The DVLA record of the van had appeared on James’ screen along with data on Terry North. He’d picked up a few points on his driving licence but didn’t have any other criminal record.
‘I’ve got a message to look for the movements of the van on CCTV,’ Baz said. ‘Can you help, Jim.’
‘OK.’

By the end of his shift, James was getting worried. They had not found any footage showing Terry’s van, but they had been provided with Terry’s mobile phone number. Emma North had been interviewed by police officers and had provided information about Terry, including the address he was supposed to be living at. James had read the reports as they came in. Emma hadn’t mentioned Terry’s crossdressing, but officers had paid a visit to the shared house and talked to the Romanians. DI Crowley’s team now knew that Terry had been missing for a couple of days. The search was on.
James was feeling despondent when he reached home. He found Angela curled up on their saggy sofa watching TV. They greeted each other, kissed and then Angela asked him about his day.
‘There’s still no sign of Tina?’ Angela asked when he had finished.
‘No, but Crowley is getting excited by the thought that he’s on the trail of Avril Robinson’s killer.’
‘He thinks Terry/Tina did it?’
‘Maybe. Terry’s a “person of interest”.’
‘Do you think he did it?’
James wasn’t sure of his answer. ‘I can’t believe that Tina would do that to a young girl, but sometimes people you know are capable of things you find incredible.’
Angela frowned. ‘Does it matter that you’ve met Tina? You don’t know Terry.’
James shrugged and shook his head. ‘If Crowley finds out that there’s a link between me and Terry because we met at Butterflies, I’m not sure what will happen. If it gets out that I’m Jasmine, well . . .’ Being exposed as a cross-dresser was James’ biggest dread. It came above his fear of knives.
‘But meeting Tina at Butterflies has got nothing to do with the murder of this girl,’ Angela said trying to soothe him.
‘At this stage of an investigation, any bit of information could be important. That’s what detectives do, they collect every possible fact they can and then work out which are relevant. They found Tina’s clothes at that dump of a place Terry was living at. Crowley will be wondering what they mean, and I bet he’ll jump to the same conclusion as Emma North’s friend – transvestite equals paedophile.’
‘Really? Are you sure?’
James felt sick. ‘You know what little most people know about being trans. With a murdered child on his mind, Crowley is going to see those princess dresses of Tina’s and the lights are going to start flashing.’
‘Suppose you’re right,’ Angela hugged him close to her.
‘There’s another thing,’ James said, ‘The Romanians may have told the officers that Sam and I were looking for Tina. Crowley will wonder who we are and why we were looking for Tina.’
‘Did you tell the Romanians who you were?’
‘No, but the woman, Christina, knew that we were trans like Tina.’
‘There’s no way DI Crowley can link Jasmine to you then,’ Angela said.
‘I hope not,’ James said, not totally convinced.

He was at the station early the following morning. Colin arrived to find James waiting to get started.
‘You’re keen this morning,’ Colin mumbled. He sat down at his screen and pulled a chocolate bar from his pocket.
‘This case is important,’ James said, sitting beside him
‘You mean the Robinson murder. It’s just one case. There’s lots of others.’ He chewed while his computer was booting up
‘Yes, but you know what I mean.’
‘Well, at least it’s getting somewhere. Look we’ve got the phone record for this Terrence North guy.’
A knot of apprehension formed in James’ stomach. He looked at his own screen. Yes, there they were – a list of all the calls made on Terry’s mobile.
‘I’ll go through them,’ James said.
‘Okay,’ Collin agreed, ‘I’ll see what other evidence has come in.’
James searched through the phone data. The first thing he noticed was that Terry/Tina had not answered or made any calls since Saturday afternoon. There were several callers including a number that James recognised as being Samantha’s. He bit his lip. That was one step closer to linking him with Tina.
James soon had a list of the people who had tried to contact Terry since Saturday. Apart from Samantha, there was his wife Emma and someone who Terry was supposed to be doing some work for. He could find no calls that related to Avril Robinson or her family. That didn’t mean much, James reflected. They already knew that the calls the girl had made had been to a pay-as-you-go number. If Terry was the paedophile he wouldn’t have used his usual phone to groom the kid.
It was late morning when Colin let out a grunt.
‘What’s that?’ James said.
‘Forensics have got a match for the blood found in that van,’ Colin said.
James’ heart raced. ‘Who for?’
‘The dead girl, Avril Robinson.’
A wave of cold passed through James body. ‘Are they sure?’
‘As good as. Not a DNA match yet. That’s on its way. But still, it looks like the girl was in the van anyway, doesn’t it?’
‘I suppose so.’ Now the hunt for Terry would intensify, James thought, and Crowley would be wanting to speak to anyone who had any contact with him. He’d be sending someone to speak to Samantha. He pushed his chair back and stood up.
‘Just got to go to the loo,’ he said and hurried out of the room. He walked out of the rear entrance of the police station and took his phone from his pocket. He dialled Samantha’s number. It rang for a while.
‘Don’t go to voicemail,’ he muttered. At last, just when he’d almost given up hope, his call was answered.
‘Hi, Jasmine. What’s up. News about Tina?’
‘Samantha. Look, the police are looking for Tina. They’ve got your phone number so someone will be wanting to speak to you.’
‘Oh, why?’
‘Because you’ve tried to contact her.’
‘Right. OK. Why are the police looking? Do they think something has happened to her?’
James knew he shouldn’t give away facts to do with the case. ‘Yes, and if they find out you’re trans they may guess that you were one of the pair who called on the Romanians.’
‘They know about us?’
‘They know a pair of trannies visited the house where Tina was living. They don’t know it was you and me. Look, they mustn’t find out that I’m Jasmine.’
There was a brief silence. ‘Oh, I get it. You don’t want your mates in the police to find out you’re trans too.’
‘That’s right.’
‘OK. If they ask I’ll say I only know you as Jasmine. That’s the truth actually.’
‘Thanks. Look, I’ve got to go. Good luck.’ He ended the call.
He wasn’t sure how interested Crowley and his team would be in Jasmine, but he reckoned the only way to ensure that he and Jasmine weren’t linked was to be the first to track down Terry or find the kidnapper of Avril who had used the van. Surely they weren’t the same person.

…………………………………to be continued

Jasmine explains

There’s been a chorus of pots calling out kettles this week. I’m referring to the scandal of the Oxfam aid workers exploiting local sex-workers in Haiti and elsewhere. It is disgusting that a small number of employees of the charity take advantage of vulnerable women (is it just women?) but the threats by government minsters to cut the charity’s grant from the foreign aid budget smacks of hypocrisy and opportunism on the part of those Tories who want to see foreign aid reduced. It is stupid to penalise the work of the charity because of the actions of a small number of people and the failure of the management to deal with them satisfactorily.

We have seen, not just in recent months, that sexual predators find opportunities in lots of professions and places of work, including the House of Commons.  No organisation should be complacent and the old methods of allowing, in particular, senior staff to resign and move on to other lucrative posts when their odious behaviour is found out, must stop. Sexist, misogynistic and sexually exploitive behaviour must be eliminated from all areas of society and men must learn to treat women (and other genders) equally and with respect.

……………………………

trained by murder ver3And now for the good news.  The publication of  Trained By Murder: A Jasmine Frame Collection is approaching and the cover by Scott Wood is now revealed.  The collection is made up four longish short stories set in 2004-2006 so still some years before the events of Painted Ladies.  Here’s a trial blurb:”

“James Frame is embarking on a career in the police force and sharing a life after university with Angela Madison. Jasmine makes a large contribution to his identity but he/she is unsure if the future lies with James or Jasmine. In Reading, Ibiza, London and Abingdon James’/Jasmine’s dual life collides with incidents of life and death that develop her skills as a detective. She is trained by murder.”

Trained By Murder will be available on Kindle.

Back to the current prequel.  Pose has reached the fifth episode and Jasmine has to do some explaining.

Pose: Part 5

Jasmine stopped the car outside the small terraced house that Samantha had indicated. She reached for the handle of her door.
‘I’m not coming,’ Samantha said.
Jasmine looked at her companion who seemed to be trying to make herself as small as possible. ‘Why not?’
‘She doesn’t like me.’
Jasmine chuckled. ‘Are you surprised? She would see you as encouraging her husband. You’re the one to blame for Terry’s behaviour.’
Samantha shrugged. ‘Yeah, I know that. You go and speak to her if you want to.’
‘OK. I think we need to find out if she’s seen Tina recently. What’s her name?’
‘Emma,’
‘And their surname?’
‘North. Good luck.’
‘Thanks.’ Jasmine opened her car door and stepped out. She walked up to the front door, noting that the garden was tidy and the front of the house at least, appeared looked after. She pressed the doorbell. The door was opened by a young woman in jeans and t-shirt. She looked at Jasmine blankly.
‘Mrs North?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah. What d’you want?’
‘I’m a friend of your husband, Mrs North.’
She looked suspicious. ‘How d’you know Terry?’
Jasmine didn’t want to deceive the woman. ‘I don’t know Terry. I know him as Tina.’
The young woman’s nose wrinkled in disgust but then she examined Jasmine more closely.
‘You’re a woman not one of them pervs.’
Jasmine sighed. It was a pleasure to be taken for a woman, but this was one occasion when she had to admit to what she was and perhaps alter Tina’s wife’s misconceptions.
‘I’m transgender, Mrs North.’
She pushed the door closed. ‘I don’t want nuffin to do with you lot.’. Jasmine placed the sole of her boot in the way.
‘Please, Mrs North. We’re concerned about Terry.’
The door pressed against Jasmine’s foot.
‘Whass that mean?’
‘He’s gone missing from his address.’
Emma North shrugged. ‘I ain’t bovvered. Get your foot out of my door.’
‘Look I know you didn’t like how Terry dressed when he was Tina. . .’
‘It was disgustin’.’
‘And Terry was wrong not to discuss it with you.’
‘Nuffin to talk about. He was wrong in the ‘ead.’
Jasmine nodded. ‘I know, but he was the father of your daughter. You were happy together once.’
‘Once,’ she snorted, ‘Until he went bonkers. Doin’ hisself up like a kiddy.’
‘I can understand that it upset you, Mrs North.’
Her eyes were examining Jasmine, perhaps seeing her properly.
‘You look like a normal woman not like what Terry did.’
‘That’s what I want to be, Mrs North, a normal woman. Tina wanted to be something different.’
‘A pee-do-file, that’s what he wanted to be.’
Jasmine was astonished. ‘What do you mean, he wanted to be a paedophile?’
‘That’s what my mate, Sharon said he was when I said that Terry wanted to be a little girl. She said that’s called being a pee-do.’
‘Um, no, Emma, that’s not what a paedophile is. For some reason Terry liked dressing up like a teenage girl, or perhaps younger. I don’t know why. I don’t understand him either. But that doesn’t make him a paedophile.’
The woman looked confused.
‘Can I come inside so we can talk about it?’ Jasmine said gently, hoping that Emma North would accept her. The pressure of the door on Jasmine’s foot lessened.
‘I’m not sure. My girl’s inside.’
‘I understand. You don’t want your daughter confused.’
The door opened wider. ‘She’s watching telly. Come in the kitchen. Keep quiet.’ She let Jasmine step into the hallway, closed the door then guided her into the small kitchen.
‘I’ll see she’s happy,’ Emma said leaving Jasmine standing by the cooker. She returned a few moment later smiling. ‘She’s glued to a cartoon.’
Jasmine smiled, ‘Kids like a good cartoon don’t they. How old is your daughter?’
‘Five, nearly six.’
‘Terry loves her, doesn’t he?’ Emma nodded. ‘You’ve never been worried about leaving Terry with her, have you?’
The mother appeared to think the question odd. ‘No. He used to be a good dad. Played with her lots.’
‘But you asked him to leave because of his dressing.’
Her expression changed to anger. ‘I didn’t want Lucy seeing him looking weird.’
Jasmine nodded, ‘I understand. But that doesn’t make Terry a paedophile.’
‘No?’
‘A paedophile abuses children; touches them inappropriately, sexually; hurts them. Terry never did anything like that did he?’
Emma’s eyes widened in a look of horror. ‘No. I’d ‘ave killed him if he hurt my little girl.’
Jasmine said very slowly, ‘Right. Terry is a transvestite not a paedophile.’
Emma nodded slowly.
‘Now,’ Jasmine went on, ‘Did you tell anyone else that you thought Terry was a paedophile.’
The woman shook her head.
‘Did you tell Sharon where Terry was living?’
Emma nodded. ‘Yeah. I told her I didn’t like him bein’ so close. One day I saw him out in his gear. He looked a right wanker.’
Jasmine bit her lip. ‘You haven’t seen or heard from Terry in the last couple of days?’
Emma shook her head. She had turned pale. ‘Nuffin’s happened to him has it?’
‘I don’t know Emma,’ Jasmine tried to speak as neutrally as possible, ‘He hasn’t been seen since Friday evening after a group of people went to the house where he lives, shouted and threw a stone at his window.’
‘Eh?’
‘They called Terry a “Paedo”. They thought he’d abused your daughter and should be punished for it.’
‘Oh god!’
‘Perhaps Terry has just decided to go away from here. Somewhere where he’s safe. Has he got family somewhere?’
Emma shrugged. ‘They live up north but he never goes there. He fell out wiv ‘is Dad years ago.’
‘Is there anywhere else he might have gone?’
She shook her head.
‘Where does Sharon live?’
Emma pointed to the back of the house. ‘The street behind ‘ere. Number twelve. Why do you want to know?’
‘Someone told the people who attacked Terry’s digs where he was living and that he was thought to be a paedophile. Unless you can think of anyone else you talked to about it, it must have been Sharon.’
Emma looked thoughtful. ‘I ‘spect she told her bloke.’
‘Who’s that.’
‘Jed. He’s lived wiv ‘er for a couple of years. I dunno what Sharon sees in ‘im. He gets moods on ‘im.’
Jasmine had an impression of the man which she didn’t want to explore with Emma.
‘Ok, well thank you Mrs North. I’ll be off now. Thanks for speaking to me.’ Jasmine began to walk back to the front door.
Emma North followed her. ‘Look. If you find Terry, tell ‘im he’s not seeing Lucy unless he’s dressed proper.’
Jasmine smiled at her. ‘OK. I hope we find him.’ She let herself out of the door and hurried back to the car.
Samantha spoke as she got in. ‘She let you in then.’
‘Yes. We had a chat.’
‘What did she tell you?’
‘Her friend Sharon told her that Terry must be a paedophile because he likes dressing like a girl. Seems they didn’t understand what the word really means.’
‘So this friend started the rumour?’
‘It was her or her boyfriend.’
‘Did Emma have any idea where Tina’s gone?’
Jasmine shook her head. ‘No. She thought it was unlikely that he’s gone home and didn’t have any other suggestions.’
Samantha frowned. ‘If Tina’s frightened about staying in that house with the Romanians she could be sleeping rough.’
‘The nights are getting a bit chill for that. What does Terry do for a living? Perhaps he’s hanging around where he works.’
‘He’s a handyman; a bit of this a bit of that. He works all over the town. Gets round in a van.’
‘Would you recognise it?’
‘Yeah, Tina gave me a lift a few times. It’s an old LDV, red.’
Jasmine turned the key in the ignition. ‘Well, let’s have a drive round and see if we can find it. I think he’ll try to stay as close to home as possible to be near his daughter.’ She drove slowly down the street.

…………………….to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine troubled

It’s been another week when the news has been less than uplifting. Was the collapse of Carillion due to mismanagement or greed, or both? The fact is that many thousands of ordinary people are now not sure about their future while the rest of us may be faced with extra costs via taxes and lower savings interest rates because of government incompetence and arrogance.

WP_20180102_15_23_41_Pro

Tea in Debenhams

I mentioned last week the new ITV programme, Transformation Street.  I’ve now watched the first episode and can comment.  Like so many programmes focussing on transgender people, it delights in the gory details – pictures of excised breast tissue and testicles. I’m not sure what the point of doing that is, unless it is to justifiably emphasise that this is serious stuff. The programme is largely one long ad for a private gender clinic and its charismatic surgeon, who does all the surgery from facial feminisation through, breast enhancement and removal to the big ones – gender reassignment or confirmation as it is now called. As always, the individuals reveal how everyone has their own story, as do the partners and family of the transgender person. The gratitude shown by the patients as they recover from their surgery is striking.  I’d like to see them again many months after their operation. Many, probably most, are satisfied with their treatment but a few find that modifying their appearance doesn’t answer all their problems.  The programme did reveal the immense costs of going through the full transition particularly if one wants all the cosmetic treatment. Some will spend their entire life savings (and more) to get what they want. These costs also explain why the NHS struggles meet demand for gender identity treatment.  Is the programme of value? Well, it didn’t offer any judgements in the first episode but viewed as a source of information it performs a role. For surgery-porn junkies it probably hit the mark. For keeping trans in the public eye I’ll give it full marks, for anything else I’ll wait and see.

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I have at last begun a new Jasmine Frame story, called (for now) Pose. The first episode is below but I think it needs just a short introduction.  I know stories should be able to stand alone but as there are now so many Jasmine tales this one perhaps needs to be placed in context. Chronologically, it follows after the recently concluded story, Reflex, but takes place about one year later in, autumn 2007. This is the one period in Jasmine’s Painted Ladies front cover jpegcareer where there is a bit of a gap.  The prequels to Painted Ladies cover the years 2000, starting with Discovering Jasmine, and ending with Viewpoint (so far unpublished) set in December 2011 which concerns Jasmine’s last case in the police force.  Four of the stories which cover the period 2004 to 2006 will shortly be published in the collection provisionally titled, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder. There are eight stories in the period 2009-2011 which may get published at a later date. So there is this gap, 2006-2009, where Jasmine is a police officer, married to Angela, but struggling with her identity. Pose deals with some serious issues – I hope you enjoy it.

Pose: Part 1

‘No, no, no!’ James pushed back on his chair and turned his face away from the computer display. Alongside him, DC Colin Green, glanced from his screen.
‘Bad one, eh?’
James shook his head, not in disagreement but trying to free his mind of the image. ‘Sick.’
Colin grunted and looked back at the images flicking past on his computer.
James thought and then declared, ‘No, not sick.’ Colin looked at him, eyebrows raised. ‘Sick implies that the guys looking at this stuff are ill, that it’s not their responsibility. They don’t have an illness, they’re evil. And I don’t mean they’re under the influence of the devil. They’ve made their very own hell for these kids.’
DC Green pushed his chair back. ‘Come on, Matey. I think you need a break. I could murder a bacon sarnie.’ He heaved his bulk off the office chair, which sighed gratefully. James stood too, and they squeezed past the desks, the tower of processors and the evidence bags of CD-ROMs, hard drives, memory sticks and floppy discs. James pushed the door open and emerged into the relative airiness of the corridor. The windowless office of the Child Protection Unit Electronic Evidence Section was little more than a cupboard hastily equipped with a couple of desks, keyboards, display units, processors and a variety of file readers.

James cradled the cup of black coffee in his hands and looked at DC Green munching into his ketchup dripping, bacon and egg sandwich. He wasn’t everyone’s image of the criminal-catching detective. He was overweight for a start, would barely pass the fitness test for an on-the-beat constable, and his unbuttoned shirt had obviously been nowhere near an iron. Yet he was dedicated. James knew that from observing him for the last four months and he looked to him for help in hacking into recalcitrant files and online accounts.
‘How do you cope with it?’ James asked.
Green took his eyes off the sandwich. ‘What?’
‘The disgust.’ Actually, it wasn’t just disgust he felt at the images they were duty-bound to examine. There was fear too. Fear of being drawn in by the overt sexual images. It hadn’t happened, but he was scared that one day he might find himself aroused by what he saw. The thought was appalling but he already felt that his penis had an existence all of its own, separate to the feminine persona that inhabited his skull. It was nonsense really. He knew that his cock and balls didn’t have a mind of their own despite that it sometimes appeared like it; but the fear remained.
Colin shrugged. ‘It’s a tough job that we do. You have to build a shell around yourself.’
‘A shell?’
‘Yeah. You can’t let anything you see or hear touch you. Just record it, label it, prepare it to be used as evidence. That’s our job.’
James nodded. Our job, yes, just another task for the twenty-first century police officer. He’d been delighted when he had been invited to join the Vulnerable Persons Department and assigned to the Child Protection Unit in Reading. It was his first experience of plainclothes work, his first post as a detective. Except that, ever since, he had spent most of his days in that claustrophobic, cramped closet, hunched over a computer. His apparent familiarity with a computer keyboard had indicated to his bosses that he would be a suitable recruit to the Electronic Evidence Section. He probably did have more experience with computers than officers that had joined straight from school or after some other career, and yes, he had owned a laptop since he was in the sixth form at school, but he wasn’t a computer geek like Colin, or Baz, his other EES colleague. Nevertheless, he was a fast learner and picked up the techniques of searching the internet and accessing files and digging through mobile phone records. He’d been aware of the easy availability of porn on the internet, who wasn’t, but just a few months in the job had shown him how the increasing sophistication of search engines and file sharing websites, the growth of social networks like MySpace and the rival Facebook, and the decreasing cost of mobile phones, made life easier for those who were drawn to the margins of sexual desire – the illegal, sickening and abusive gutters.
‘You’ll cope,’ Colin added. ‘You’re a natural.’
James didn’t feel as confident as Colin’s compliment suggested. He drank his coffee. Colin wiped the egg yolk from his plate with the last piece of bread, popped it in his mouth and chewed.
‘Better get back to it,’ he said through the mouthful, ‘The DI wanted the report on this lot today.’
James groaned at the thought of the hundreds of images still to be accessed, logged and classified, but he heaved himself to his feet. He noticed that Colin had a drip of ketchup on his collar.

…………………………

As soon as they arrived at the country village hall, Angela went to the hatch to collect a couple of drinks and chat to Susan. Jasmine looked around noting who was present at this month’s Butterflies meeting. Belinda, the President and organiser was chatting to a couple of older members. Jasmine had only managed to attend half a dozen times in the last year, but she recognised the regulars, and they were all regulars. There were no new faces, not tonight. She crossed the room to approach a couple of the girls. They were younger than the rest of the attendees, though still several years older than herself. She felt she had more in common with them. For a start they were in modern fashions rather than “classics”, or to be frank, what mother might have worn. Jasmine did have some doubts about Tina, however. She favoured a teenage, or even pre-teen, style. In public, she would look odd, weird even, but in the private, inclusive atmosphere of the Butterflies she was accepted, as she wanted to be.
As Jasmine approached Tina and her companion, Samantha, she examined this evening’s outfit. Being September, it was still warm enough for summertime wear. Tina wore a baby-doll dress in pale pink which just reached to mid-thigh and had short puffed sleeves. It was tied at the waist with a black ribbon. Through the semi-transparent cloth Jasmine could see suspenders holding up white stockings and a lacy bra. On her feet were white strappy sandals with high block heels. Her long blonde hair, which Jasmine knew was a good quality wig, was bedecked with little pink bows. She carried a handbag in the shape of a pink plastic teddy bear.
‘Hi, Jas,’ Tina greeted her in her artificially high-pitched sing-song voice. It grated on Jasmine for being so unnatural, but she had learnt it was part of Tina’s attempt to build a persona for herself as a young teen. It was make-believe. Jasmine knew that she was a mid-thirties electrician with a wife and a young daughter.
‘Hi,’ she replied and nodded to Tina and Samantha, ‘How are things?’
Samantha smiled at Jasmine. Her style was more adult – denim miniskirt over light blue leggings and a bright yellow t-shirt.
‘Tina’s got problems,’ Samantha confided.
‘Oh?’ Jasmine said.
Tina leaned into the group and spoke in a stage whisper. ‘My wife’s giving me hassle.’
‘About dressing?’ Jasmine asked.
‘Yeah.’
‘But she accepts that you do dress?’
Tina responded grumpily, ‘Tolerates, would be a better way of putting it although that seems to be wearing thin.’
‘Why?’ Jasmine wondered what was going on between Tina and her wife.
‘She won’t let me in the house dressed when Lucy’s awake.’
‘You had to get changed here did you?’ Jasmine asked. Some members arrived as men and did a transformation in the hall’s small Ladies loo.
‘No, I stopped in a layby and did a quick swap. I don’t know about going home. She might go crackers if I turn up at home like this.’
Jasmine inquired further, ‘Why is she less tolerant than she was?’
Tina shrugged. ‘She says that now that Lucy is nearly six and at school, she might get confused if she sees her father in a dress.’ Wearing clothes the girl might herself wear to a school-friend’s party, except for the suspenders and bra, she might be confused, Jasmine thought. ‘It might be partly what I spent on my new boobs,’ Tina added.
‘You need to talk,’ Samantha advised.
Tina looked rueful. ‘I think we’re passed that. She hasn’t spoken to me for days.’

………………………………. to be continued.

 

 

Jasmine in preparation

It’s been one of those weeks; a little bit of this a little bit of that, but I have made progress. The editing of the collection of Jasmine Frame stories is almost complete although I am still unsure about the title, Jasmine Frame: Training for Murder.  All the stories are from the period at the start of James/Jasmine’s police career. I am still thinking about better ideas.

20170930_130307I did have a bit of a down at one point with news that sales of my books are pretty slow. That could be my fault – I’m not doing enough to promote them – but I’m not sure what more there is to do on a limited budget. On the other hand I get an email asking for news of the next Jasmine Frame novel.  So I press on.

I note that the media obsession  with trans matters continues with a new series on ITV called Transformations.  It follows people undergoing transition.  I haven’t seen it yet but will comment more when I have. I’m about to do a few talks myself about being trans including the legal and medical aspects. The problem, or perhaps it isn’t a problem, is that everyone is different and that there are so many forms of transgenderism or gender fluidity.  It will be an interesting experience.

So with one thing and another I haven’t yet started the new Jasmine story. Next week?  As a substitute, here again is something I wrote earlier. It is also a piece I wrote for one of the writing groups I attend. I think the task was to write a letter of complaint. In fact I have added the reply too. It was an attempt at satire, not perfect which is why I have not bothered to find a home for it or sent it to any competitions but you can enjoy it or otherwise tear it to pieces.

The Devil’s Redundancy

Dear Lord and Master of All,
I am writing to complain about the redundancy notice I have been sent by your office. I would like to remind you of the contract I received when I accepted this posting outside Paradise. I draw your attention to the term ‘eternity’. Yes, I am appointed to run the underworld for eternity. Further my job description says I am to punish sinners for time without end. You can’t just rip up a contract like that just because you’re omnipotent, after what I’ve done for, what is it now, six thousand years.
You say the reason for my getting fired – that’s a good word isn’t it for the one who has been stoking the fires with a little help from my demons – is because I have been failing in my duty of tempting the good souls to whom you have given the Earth and all the living things within it. Well, I have some reasons for that.
First of all it is a question of numbers. Heaven may be infinite in size but the Earth isn’t, so there is only so much room in the underworld to accommodate all the sinners, allowing space for the punishments you insisted that I provide. The problem is that you let these humans proliferate so that I now have over seven billion of them to deal with at once, and that’s just the living. If you hadn’t made fornication so pleasurable for them I’m sure they wouldn’t breed so fast. So, with so many people to tempt it’s as much as I can do to get round each of them during their lifetimes as well as the time spent preparing new chambers of hell.
The second problem has been an energy crisis. When there are potentially so many candidates for burning there is a need to provide fuel. Now you designed the laws of thermodynamics so you know that when you use energy some always gets lost and heats up the surroundings. I’m afraid that’s been happening and the Earth has been warming up a bit. Well, with increasing numbers the temperature has been rising faster. I can’t keep hiding global warming behind their use of fossil fuels, which you kindly provided, for much longer.
Finally, the place has been filling up at a faster rate than I can manage without me tempting them to excess. I know you’ll say that is why I’m redundant. I’m not needed anymore to trick these folks into vices as they do it for themselves, but do you really expect this place to run by itself or are you expecting volunteers to step in and run your Big Purgatory.
You see you really shouldn’t have given them free will. It’s because of that they’ve found ways to sin that you, for all your omniscience, never thought of. For a start, why did you give them seven deadly sins to work at, when they’d have done well enough with two or three. The trouble started when you made gold not only a pretty metal but rare too. In the early days it was only a few of them who fell for the envy and greed thing as they built up their stocks of the stuff and then added the lust, gluttony and pride for good measure – people like old King Midas; he sends his regards by the way. Now they don’t need to actually own the metal to get into the vices. For a while they collected bits of paper but now figures in their fancy computers do the job very nicely. And then you went and gave a few of them ingenuity so that the rest can satisfy their basic desires while slumped in front of the TV, building up their sloth coefficient. They’ve even found new ways of encouraging vices with inventions such as internet porn, fast food and reality TV shows – which make me pretty wrathful, I can tell you.
I think that instead of putting me out to grass you should be getting round to that Armageddon thing you’ve been talking about for eons. Let’s give the whole place a re-boot and re-think the human race.

Yours faithfully,
Lucifer
P.S. Give my love to the kids.

………………….

My dear Lucifer,
Thank you for your letter. I do think it quaint that you still use such outmoded forms of communication. I find email so much more in keeping with my status of omniscience because, of course, it is never lost but always stored in the perambulations of electrons. I can access it anywhere in my universe thanks to the free dongle that came with my package.
I knew that being made redundant would upset you and I want you to know that I empathise with your feelings. I do want to thank you for all the efforts you have made to punish those creatures that I allowed to stray from the paths of righteousness. The truth is that I have decided on a little reorganisation up here.
When I created this place I decided on a multi-faceted presence which allowed my people to interpret my existence in a number of different ways. This produced effects that were not quite as predicted. Not of course that I am giving up my claim on infallibility, it is just that these people have followed a path that was not one of high probability. That was one of the results of allowing them a semblance of free-will. The problem is that instead of uniting in praise of me they have divided up into more and more denominations, each at each other’s throats, so that they have called into question my forgiving and all-embracing love. It has got so bad that a sizeable proportion have even given up believing in me. I am sure that you appreciate that that is not a good state of affairs for an all-powerful being.
Anyway to cut to the chase, as some of them say, I have decided on a universe-wide reorganisation programme. I am going to amalgamate the various divisions of paradise and terminate the various brand-names by which I have been known. It is time for a re-launch with a brand new face of God. So there will be, as you suggest, an Armageddon of sorts. However, it is such a fag having to re-build a whole universe and come up with all those little clues that suggest that everything has been around a lot longer than it actually has – do you know how long it took for me to come up with all the dinosaurs last time? Yes, I know time means nothing to me but someone has to think of these things. Anyway I’ve decided on a species-selective form of the final curtain and these humans I created gave me the idea themselves, isn’t that smart. They’ve already had a few goes themselves but this is going to be the grand-daddy of all economic collapses. I’ve hardly had to do anything at all really, just a few nudges of this corporation or that, a few insider dealings here or there. At the appointed moment their whole financial system will collapse and they’ll be back where they started, a bunch of stone wielding, hunters and gatherers ready to look around them and see me in everything.
I know what you are going to say – where does hell fit into all this? Well actually it doesn’t. I’ve decided on a rationalisation process that means that you and your dominion are surplus to requirements. It’s quite clever really in that I’m bringing punishments for sins back in house. They’ve brought it on themselves really. Once civilisation has gone there’ll be enough radioactive waste, nerve gases, incurable diseases to say nothing of environmental degradation brought on by their profligate use of all the resources I gave them, that there will be plenty of ways to make their existence miserable. And the good thing is that I won’t even have to provide for the pure and faultless souls because there aren’t any. Every last one of them has fallen for at least one of those seven vices you mention, plus a few extra ones that they invented for themselves.
So there we are Lucifer, old fellow. I’m sure you will get over your disappointment and will enjoy your retirement – for eternity, of course. I’ll make sure your needs are provided for, perhaps a little heritage-hell for old times’ sake and I am sure the new arrangements will keep you amused even as a spectator.

Yours truly,
The Almighty One

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